A study of past composite aircraft structures programs was conducted to determine the lessons learned during the programs. The study focused on finding major underlying principles and practices that experience showed have significant effects on the development process and should be recognized and understood by those responsible for using of composites. Published information on programs was reviewed and interviews were conducted with personnel associated with current and past major development programs. In all, interviews were conducted with about 56 people representing 32 organizations. Most of the people interviewed have been involved in the engineering and manufacturing development of composites for the past 20 to 25 years. Although composites technology has made great advances over the past 30 years, the effective application of composites to aircraft is still a complex problem that requires experienced personnel with special knowledge. All disciplines involved in the development process must work together in real time to minimize risk and assure total product quality and performance at acceptable costs. The most successful programs have made effective use of integrated, collocated, concurrent engineering teams, and most often used well-planned, systematic development efforts wherein the design and manufacturing processes are validated in a step-by-step or 'building block' approach. Such approaches reduce program risk and are cost effective.